Pleasantly indulgent, with a dash of realism.

ONCE UPON A K-PROM

When they were 10, Elena Soo and Robbie Choi promised to go to prom together; seven years later, Robbie, now a member of world-famous K-pop group WDB, shows up on Elena’s doorstep.

Korean American Elena wants to set herself apart from her four siblings, but at school and at home, the attention-shy high school junior is always overshadowed by her older sisters and twin brother. It doesn’t help that her efforts to fundraise for the local community center through an “alterna-prom” initiative has put her at odds with her classmates. When Robbie, whose family left Chicago for Seoul, suddenly reappears in the States, first at her house and then at school with a public, extravagant promposal, Elena is bewildered by the polished heartthrob who is so different from her goofy childhood friend. She rejects him. This stuns Robbie, who genuinely wants to reconnect with her and fulfill their old promise, but despite his polished idol persona and ease with adoring fans, he doesn’t know how to talk to his first crush. The story unfolds in alternating perspectives with an even mix of flirty and serious tones balancing a frothy premise with sympathetic lead characters who are each struggling in their own ways to define themselves. No prior K-pop knowledge is needed to enjoy the slow-burn, will-they, won’t-they storyline, though fans of the genre will appreciate a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-them allusions to real K-pop idols.

Pleasantly indulgent, with a dash of realism. (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-368-06464-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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